Whether you're switching careers to find a better-paying position, achieve a better work-life balance, try something new, or because you lost your job, starting over is challenging at any age. The process is even more intimidating if you're in your forties. However, this transition doesn't have to be as hard as many people think, especially if you approach it well prepared.
In today's article, we'll talk about switching careers later in your professional life. We'll look at signs that indicate you need a change, suggest the best roles to consider when starting a new career in your 40s or beyond, and discuss how to make the entire process as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Signs You Need a Career Change
It usually starts with an uncertain feeling that something about your current job isn't quite doing it for you anymore. How can you tell if these thoughts are normal exhaustion that you can resolve by taking a few days off or if they indicate it's time for a career change? Pay attention to these five signs:
1. Your Body is Telling You Enough is Enough
If you chronically feel drained of energy and catch colds more often, consider if your job is causing these physical symptoms. We spend more waking hours working than doing anything else. Overly stressful work, incredibly tedious tasks, or a toxic environment at the office can easily lead to health issues.
2. You Live for the Weekend
From time to time, we all feel a little unenthusiastic about going to work. The reasons vary but might include:
- Unpleasant meetings on your schedule
- Issues with a project budget that you need to solve
- A lack of sleep last night
There is nothing uncommon here. However, if you live only for the weekends and dread Monday mornings, it might be time to consider a career change.
3. Your Job Negatively Impacts Your Self-Esteem
The uneasy feeling that you're not a good fit for your role makes you wonder if the problem is, in fact, you. But staying in a full-time job that makes you feel bad about yourself is hardly worth it. Your career is supposed to boost your confidence, not increase your insecurity.
4. You're Only There for the Money
If your paycheck is the only reason you keep showing up at the office, you might want to consider changing careers. Undoubtedly, having enough money for bills and life expenses is important. However, you can earn a healthy salary at a job that fulfills you instead of one that makes you miserable.
5. You Feel Stuck in Your Career
You feel unhappy in your current position, but the idea of doing your boss's job is even worse. If you've reached a point where you're not learning or growing, it might be a sign that your role doesn't align with your skills, values, and interests. Changing careers can be the best solution.
These signs that you've hit a professional dead end are hard to miss. Why do so many people choose to ignore them?
What's Stopping You From Changing Careers?
Embarking on a career change at 40 has its drawbacks. Here are the main concerns that make people hesitate:
- There are more responsibilities to consider. By the age of 40, many people have to take care of children, support elderly parents, and maintain a household while trying not to neglect their hobbies. It's harder to find time to learn new skills, network with professionals from a new industry, or do volunteer work to gain experience.
- There are more expenses to handle. When you're in your 20s, it's easy to crash on your parents' couch while you explore new career opportunities and wait until it works. However, people who are over 40 usually have a mortgage, are saving for retirement, have families to support, or have other financial commitments. And a new career often means starting with a lower salary than you had at your previous job.
- It's hard to leave what you've achieved so far. After you've worked so hard to gain skills and experience in one field, walking away can be scary. And hating your current job doesn't make this idea less terrifying.
Although these are valid concerns, don't forget that making a career change at 40 has many advantages. You surely have many transferable skills that you've honed over the past decades. For instance, your motivation, adaptability, commitment to your new role, and willingness to learn new things will make you a valuable asset to any business. You can mitigate the risks associated with a career change at 40 if you carefully consider your decision to change careers and have a clear action plan.
How to Change Careers at 40
Here are ten steps to successfully change your career at 40:
1. Take Time to Reflect
Once you've decided that it's time to switch careers, it might be tempting to skip reflection and choose your new job right away. However, neglecting this step can cause trouble a few years down the road; you might find yourself in a role that makes you just as miserable as the job you left. Take the time to consider what you don't like about your current job and what you hope to gain after you make a career change. Make a list of the things that are most important to you in a new role. Having a clear picture of your goals will help you make a choice you won't regret.
2. Identify the Right Career for You
Explore occupations and industries that align with your interests and values. Start with a broad list and then narrow it down to a couple of options, considering factors such as:
- Prospects for industry growth
- Demand for professionals in a chosen field
- Earning potential
- Chances to use skills you already have
- Career advancement opportunities
3. Determine Which Skills You Need to Learn
Once you've decided which career path you want to pursue, it's time to make a list of skills you need to obtain. The easiest way to build this list is by reviewing ads for positions you're interested in on the leading job search platforms (Monster, Indeed, LinkedIn, etc.). Job ads will give you a clear picture of what employers are looking for in candidates. Based on this information, you can determine what you already know and what you still have to learn.
4. Build Your Support Network
Going through a career change at 40 on your own is tough. Without support, it's easy to get mired in self-doubt and lose motivation. Surrounding yourself with people who will encourage you during difficult times is essential. Be open with your family and friends. Explain why you're switching careers and what you hope to achieve in your professional life.
5. Prepare Your Finances
Starting a new career may require investing in additional education or obtaining certifications. You will probably have to work in an entry-level role while you gain experience in a new field, which might mean taking a pay cut for a time. Carefully consider the financial implications of changing careers. Prepare a detailed budget for a few months, so you know that you'll be able to cover your mortgage, healthcare, and other living expenses during the transition period.
6. Learn the Necessary Skills
Considering your budget and available time, choose a learning method to acquire the skills necessary for a new job. Luckily, you don't always have to go back to college just because you want to switch careers. You can find short-term online courses or in-person programs on nearly every possible topic.
7. Get Some Experience
Hands-on experience in your target area will help you get a job faster. Completing a short internship or volunteering on a small project will give you confidence and help your application get noticed by recruiters.
Networking, both online and in person, is another excellent way to improve your chances for a successful professional transition. Since you've been in the workforce for decades, you'll likely have a broader range of professional contacts. Let your contacts know that you're looking for a job in a new industry. Don't underestimate the power of your network, even if you don't know anyone in your target field. Your former colleague might introduce you to someone in your new field, or your alum network might share an interesting position you would otherwise miss.
9. Rebuild Your Resume
The next important step is to prepare yourself for the job market. Your new resume and adjusted LinkedIn profile must reflect your new competencies and highlight transferable skills from your previous positions. Leverage your past experience as much as possible and mention all the abilities that make you a good candidate for a new role. Even if your previous job and dream career don't overlap in technical knowledge, you can name soft skills that will be useful in both areas, such as public speaking, analytical thinking, or time management. You can also forgo the conventional, chronological resume in favor of a functional resume format that focuses on your skills.
10. Set Realistic Expectations
Finding your first job in a new industry might take some time. Undoubtedly, there will be hiring managers who won't consider you because you lack experience or due to their personal biases. Try not to feel discouraged if you don't get results quickly. Stick to your plan and keep applying for jobs. There are many companies out there that are looking for skills and passion, not specific backgrounds or age ranges.
Of course, some jobs might require additional steps, such as obtaining certifications or legal authorization for work. However, these steps will help you in many roles and industries; you can easily customize our list for your specific needs.
Best Careers to Transition Into at 40
When deciding what career to choose for your transition, it is essential to consider not only your interest and personal goals but also how easy it is to break into a certain field. Professions that require a significant accumulation of specialized knowledge and many practice hours, such as a commercial pilot or cardiovascular surgeon, are probably off the table. However, there are plenty of lucrative jobs you can get just a few months after deciding to change your occupation. Here are a few options:
1. Event Planner
An event planner is responsible for organizing and coordinating business meetings, conferences, ceremonies, corporate gatherings, etc. This specialist takes care of everything from ideas to on-site logistics.
Average salary: $62,485 per year
2. Project Manager
Project managers plan, organize, and oversee the execution of projects while ensuring that they stay within their budget and on schedule. These professionals work in various industries, from construction and engineering to marketing and software development.
Average salary: $93,039 per year
3. Digital Marketer
Digital marketers plan and execute digital marketing campaigns across different channels, including websites, social media pages, and paid ads. They usually specialize in a particular area, such as SEO, Facebook ads, or email marketing.
Average salary: $59,793 per year
4. Human Resource Specialist
HR specialists recruit, screen, and interview job candidates. They guide employees through human resources procedures and oversee health, safety, and training programs in organizations.
Average salary: $53,119 per year
5. Real Estate Agent
Real estate agents help people buy, sell, and rent homes, apartments, and commercial properties. Although the requirements for this job vary slightly from state to state, it is generally necessary to pass an exam and obtain a state license.
Average salary: $96,207 per year
Copywriters write clear and concise texts for websites, blogs, social media, ads, printed catalogs, and other marketing materials. They are responsible for creating content that connects businesses with potential clients.
Average salary: $55,373 per year
7. Graphic Designer
Graphic designers create visual concepts for businesses, including logos, packaging, billboards, store signage, and merchandise products. These professionals can work with print or digital media. They usually accomplish tasks using computer software such as Adobe InDesign, CorelDRAW, or Adobe Photoshop.
Average salary: $54,105 per year
8. QA Tester
QA testers ensure that software applications work as expected, are error-free, and meet all the requirements. They plan testing activities, run manual and automated tests, identify issues, and prepare bug reports.
Average salary: $64,181 per year
9. Software Developer
Software developers use programming languages to create various applications. Although this job requires specific technical knowledge and coding abilities, candidates with the necessary skills are welcomed at entry-level positions even if they have no relevant education other than completing a coding boot camp or online program.
Average salary: $127,149 per year
10. Tech Sales Representative
Tech Sales Representatives sell complex tech-related products and services like software applications, hardware, and IT support. They research potential clients, reach out to qualified leads, prepare proposals, and negotiate contract terms. Companies usually look for candidates with the right mindset and soft skills rather than specific education or experience, so these positions are open to candidates with different backgrounds.
Average salary: $76,547 per year
In addition to good salaries and relatively low entry barriers, all these jobs offer promising career outlooks. The demand for such professionals will continue to grow over the following decades, so you will not have to worry about staying relevant in the job market.
Hopefully, the idea of switching careers at 40 no longer not seems so scary. Do you still have doubts? Think about it this way. You have to work about two decades before retirement. That's too long to stay in a job you hate. And that's plenty of time to build expertise and become successful in a completely different field! So, why not start a new exciting journey today?